Trump’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Psychologists have publicly diagnosed Donald Trump’s narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). But you don’t need a degree to recognize it:
- the vicious lack of empathy,
- the fathomless need for attention,
- the criminally arrogant disregard for laws and basic decency,
- the below-the-belt bullying,
- the ceaseless drive to bolster himself by destroying others,
- the unbridled grandiosity.
America Goes Freeze, Flight, or Fight
When the outcome of the U.S. election began to rear its grotesque head, when Americans and the rest of the world watching that night began to register that the electoral college count was racking up in Trump’s favor, many of us reacted like trauma victims in a state of freeze, flight, or fight.
Freeze For most of the shocked among us, our first response was to freeze. We knew we were under siege, but what it meant and what we should or could do about it was unclear.
Flight Some had a flight response, overloading Canada’s immigration website to the point that it crashed.
Fight But in the days and weeks to follow, greater and greater numbers of shocked citizens began to fight. Some confronted attacks by emboldened bigots—misogynists, racists, xenophobes, and homophobes—brutalizing and harassing people on the streets, scrawling hate speech on churches and mosques, and using the media as pulpits for hateful “causes.” Other citizens spoke out against the messages of intolerance, isolationism, and flagrant capitalist opportunism that Trump had espoused throughout his campaign and embodied his whole life. Still others rallied to strategize ways of protecting our imperiled democracy.
Those of us who have been directly traumatized by narcissistic abuse and manipulation, say by a parent or partner, are intimately familiar with its insidious and devastating effects. It is a damage that roots and spreads in the body and soul in the form of
- posttraumatic stress disorder,
- substance abuse,
- and illness.
We know that none of the typical trauma responses are likely to protect us from the severe narcissist. Within families the narcissist divides and conquers, favoring some and scapegoating others. He uses lies, shame, blame, gaslighting, and plain old terror to control those around him and hold them within his reach. His lack of empathy for those who love him frees him from normal rules of engagement and makes it unlikely that his family will recognize his behavior for what it is or unite to shut down his tyranny. Instead, those within the domestic narcissist’s orbit either continue to suffer his abuse or, if possible, revert to limited or “no contact.”
The Narcissist’s Nihilism
Unfortunately, no contact with the president of the United States, in this day and age more than ever, is near to impossible. You can turn off your screens, ignore the news, even go native off the grid, but his decisions about trade, economics, taxes, natural resources, education, climate change, and the environment will inevitably affect you and your children. Distancing yourself as from the family narcissist won’t play on the world stage. Trump and his agents are too powerful and dangerous to ignore. They must be called out, held accountable, and that means understanding Trump.
The pathological narcissist, though he may seduce and fool those who serve his agenda, has no loyalty and no code of honor. He is no one’s leader, no one’s champion. He is a parasite moving from host to host to feed his endless need. His face is a mask, and his life a projection. His denial of any objective truth, particularly moral truths, makes him the ultimate nihilist, with no ideology and no belief system. Trump has exploited a divided nation, and his motives will only ever be to further divide.
A Chance at Unity
For the human family, Trump’s rise is cause for rage and despair. But it is also a chance at learning an essential lesson, one that each generation it seems must tackle anew. His is our ugliest face, mirroring what we need to resist in ourselves, our families, and our institutions.
Our kids and the planet they walk upon depend on our commitment to name and refute Trump’s “postfact” nihilism and bankrupt narcissism. Now is the time to join together in great force, to speak the bold truth in a resounding chorus, and to fight for our very lives.
Julie L. Hall is the author of the forthcoming memoir Carry You about life, and a few near deaths, in a narcissistic family. Read her blog The Narcissist Family Files on her website. Read her other articles on The HuffPost.
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